Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter Comments on Casino Incident

Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter Comments on Casino Incident


On February 10, New York Senator Mark Grisanti and his wife were attending a fundraising event for the Seneca Diabetes Foundation at the Seneca Indian Nation’s Seneca Niagara Casino. Following the event an altercation occurred between Grisanti, his wife and Seneca businesspeople. The following is a statement from Seneca Nation of Indian’s President Robert Odawi Porter following the incident.

“For the better part of this week, the Seneca Nation has been the subject of a media story of global scale. News outlets from across the state, country and the world have covered an incident that we all know by now occurred at our Seneca Niagara Casino and involved a New York State senator, his wife, and several Seneca Nation citizens.

“On Saturday, I issued a statement expressing my regret over this unfortunate, isolated incident in which the senator’s wife was injured. As the facts have emerged, it has become clear that Seneca people were also injured and that none of those involved are blameless for what happened.

“In the intervening days, several media outlets have taken this episode and sensationalized the story, reverting to salacious stereotypes, calling the incident a ‘wild brawl,’ producing headlines such as, ‘Indians on the Warpath’ and ‘Indian Whomp-‘em,’ and peppering their stories with other unseemly descriptions of my people.

“It is without question an incident in which all parties involved should have used better judgment.  But it is hardly a unique occurrence in the annals of human history. Yet the media portrayals have taken the story to an unacceptable level, painting the Senecas involved with ugly, broad strokes, and disparaging an entire Nation of people.

“Big city tabloids may be the greatest offenders, but a local weekly in Buffalo has also established a pattern of anti-Indian sentiments reflecting a willingness to assume the worst about our people, our business enterprises and our Nation.

“We don’t get the benefit of the doubt despite the economic contributions that we make to the local region, the thousands of Western New Yorkers who we employ at our businesses, and the efforts we have made in the past 40 years to rise up out of nearly 200 years of abject poverty forced on us by the confiscation of nearly all of our aboriginal lands.

“I would hope that our neighbors, our friends, and those in the media would remember that the mistakes of a few do not define the reputation of the many. No responsible person would think that the actions of the few Americans are indicative of the character of all Americans; the same sentiment should apply to the Seneca people as well.

“The Seneca Nation and our 8,000 people have struggled too hard for literally hundreds of years to provide for our own and we don’t deserve the assault that has been directed at us in the media. The Seneca Nation is committed to working together with everyone in Western New York to make our homeland a better, more attractive and prosperous place for our shared benefit. After all we have been through, we don’t deserve to be treated like this.”

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redwood's picture
Submitted by redwood on
Kudoes to President Robert Odawi Porter, for his words. I cringe, whenever I hear of incidents in Indian Country, knowing that it will always be reflected back at all of us, by an all-too-frequent attitude of paternalism and racism. Yes, we may have tribal citizens who do not always make wise choices. Is there any segment of the population who does not? Yes, we may also have some corrupt tribal governments, but do we not hear of corruption at all levels of government, be it city, county, state, or federal? Since the success of gaming in Indian Country, attention has been focused at us, and I would also think a great deal of jealousy. No one seemed to care when ALL native people were poor, but now that SOME tribes have had varying degrees of financial success, every mis-step is gleefully celebrated by those who seem to think we should remain in the shadows, without a voice. Gaming is certainly not a new business in this country, as evidenced by those states who've allowed it for decades. No one seemed to care that there were casino-moguls who grew very wealthy... in fact, that was all part of the grand scheme of American capitalism. However, since the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act REQUIRES that tribes make a compact with the states in which they are located, Indian gaming has generally benefited their local economies, and brought much needed dollars to state governments as well. Employment, charitable donations... all provided by tribes. But let something like this happen... and we are all reduced to caricatures and stereotypes. I don't know exactly what went down here... who started it, who was at fault... I'll be interested in the full story. But it certainly does get tiresome to hear the same old ugly racist remarks being thrown out there. "When we do good, no one remembers. When we do bad, no one forgets."